The San Francisco Giants are known for developing solid pitchers, and their top five arms ranked by Baseball America are on a good pace in their development so far this season.
Kyle Crick left an April 18 start for San Jose with a strained oblique and hasn't appeared since, sitting on the disabled list. The length of the DL stint is to be expected, as obliques usually take a while to heal.
Before Crick hit the disabled list, he allowed one earned run and six total over 9.2 innings in the California League. He walked nine and struck out 12.
The one main concern in Crick's game is his control, and although it's a very small sample at a little less than 10 innings, the nine walks continue a trend of high walk rates. But Crick is young for his leagues and should get a slightly better handle on his control over time.
Chris Stratton's season is going pretty much as expected in Augusta, tossing 47.2 innings with a 3.59 ERA and 3.16 FIP. His peripherals are solid at 49 strikeouts and 17 walks.
Stratton's biggest strengths are sequencing and pitchability, both of which have been excellent so far in 2013. He knows how to set hitters up going in and out, and he has the stuff to make it work. Stratton will need good command to get by in the upper levels, but all signs point toward that happening.
Mike Kickham continues to put up solid numbers in his first trip to Fresno. He has a 4.72 ERA with a 3.39 FIP, recording 50 strikeouts to 19 walks in 47.2 innings. The left-hander's most recent start was six innings, allowing one unearned run while walking two and striking out eight.
Kickham is one of the more viable options to replace a starter in the Giants rotation. He has the ceiling of a mid-rotation arm, combining a tailing fastball with a solid slider and changeup, all with pretty good control and command.
Clayton Blackburn's 4.39 ERA is a bit inflated when going by his strong peripherals, recording 48 strikeouts to 12 walks in 41 innings at San Jose. Even though his BABIP is steady at .293, Blackburn should see the ERA drop over the course of the season, evident by a 3.30 FIP.
Blackburn's peripherals are the biggest indication of where he's at in development. He'll rely on low walk totals with pinpoint control and command to succeed, something he has done very well so far as a pro.
Heath Hembree has made his case for a spot in the Giants bullpen, sporting a 2.70 ERA and 3.95 FIP in 20 relief innings at Fresno. He has limited the walks to five while striking out 21, although the three home runs allowed is a bit of a bad mark. But home runs haven't been a problem for Hembree in the past.